Chronicle of a Death Foretold

by Gabriel García Márquez

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In Chronicle of a Death Foretold, what role do minor female characters play in Santiago's life?

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In Chronicle of a Death Foretold, the women characters highlight the framework of life and the story's setting; thus, they highlight Santiago's experiences prior to his death. The novella takes place in a small town on the Colombian coast midway through the twentieth century, and the overall cultural norms of Colombia and Latin America dictate life. Roman Catholicism is imbued in every aspect of the culture, a fact underscored by the imminent arrival of the bishop on the day of Santiago's murder.

The female characters personify certain aspects of the cultural expectations and practicalities that frame the plot of the book. Take, for instance, Santiago’s mother, Plácida Linero: a strong and loving woman whose moral conviction remains unwavering despite the moral looseness of her husband and son. She married Ibrahim Nasar out of duty and practicality, rather than love, and upheld the morality of their household in spite of her husband’s love for guns, infidelity, and hedonism. She turns a blind eye to these same characteristics that have now manifested in her son. She lets this deviance pass while fretting endlessly about the potential trouble it entails. She is a dutiful wife (now a widow) and mother, as was expected of household matriarchs during this time and place.

Similarly, Purisima Del Carmen, the mother of Angela Vicario and the Vicario brothers, is rigid and strict, and follows her moral code without hesitation. She beats her daughter senselessly upon discovering that Angela has lost her virginity.

Both Purisima and Plácida represent a society that expects upright behavior from its women in particular. While the men of the village live with shameless indulgence, in sin and sexual deviance, the women are the pillars of moral code the society is built upon. These same pillars indicate why Angela’s deflowering is considered worthy of murder.

While Angela’s sexual encounter is eventually uncovered, and she is greatly punished, Pablo Vicario’s fiancée, Prudencia Cotes, insists that her fiancé avenge his sister and uphold the honor of their family. Angela’s transgression occurs when she is young and unwed, while Prudencia’s determination comes at a time that she is close to entering marriage herself. This suggests that women enter a stage of moral standing in conjunction with marriage or coming of age.

Ultimately, the men in Chronicle of a Death Foretold live largely unburdened by the values of Roman Catholic expectations, while the women stand as representations of how these values shape life and community in this town. It is the friction between these two lifestyles—one of indulgence, excess, and sin, and one of prudence, responsibility, and morality—that create the setting in which this tale can unfold.

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The minor female characters give a fuller sense of Santiago Nasar and enable the narrator to get a sense of what Santiago was like when he was alive.

Santiago's mother, Plácida Linero, was protective of her son. Though she is known as a skilled interpreter of dreams, she didn't properly interpret the dream Santiago had about birds and an airplane before his death. Even 27 years later, she feels remorseful that she didn't understand this dream, and her maternal love and desire to protect her son are apparent.

Margot, the narrator's sister, invited Santiago to breakfast on the day he was killed, and she had no idea that he was going to be murdered. She was interested in perhaps marrying Santiago. Both Plácida and Margot represent the life that Santiago would have had if he had not been killed, and they provide the narrator with a better sense of who Santiago was when he was alive.

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Chronicle of a Death Foretold, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, introduces many female characters that illuminate the personality of Santiago Nasar.  Margot, the narrator's sister, has a crush on Santiago, and she is a foil for Divina Flor, Santiago's cook's daughter.  Margot represents the kind of girl that Santiago would marry; Margot even envies Santiago's fiancee Fora Miguel.  Through Margot, we see that Santiago is quite a catch among the "nicer" and well-to-do women of the town.  However, Divina Flora, sees Santiago at his worst.  He is one who takes advantage of lower class women.  In the opening chapters Santiago touches Divina Flora inappropriately and her mother wants to see Santiago dead.  In this way, we see two sides of the man whom the twins killed:  the gentleman that draws the attention of young girls in the town and the molester who treats subordinate women with disrepect and a sense of entitlement.

Placida is Santiago's mother, and we are told that her relationship with his father was a loveless one.  His father sexually abused Divina Flor's mother, and Victoria Guzman is worried the Santiago will continue the pattern.  Santiago's mother is another example of a failed marriage, as are the vast majority of the marriages mentioned in the novel are.  Indeed, through these minor characters Marquez seems to show the double standards that exist for men and women, and how difficult it is to determine if and how Angela Vicario's accusations are true.

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